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Jun / Jul 2013
King of kings

Writer: Nicolas Shammas  Images: Courtesy of Cartier

56-year-old Stanislas de Quercize is the new Frenchman at the helm of Cartier. We had a quick chat with him at Art Dubai, an event of which his Maison is the main sponsor.

Stanislas de Quercize is the latest (and rather challenging) name on everyone’s lips right now. As the new CEO of Cartier, he has taken charge of the world’s largest luxury jeweller. Founded in Paris over 165 years ago and famously described as “the king of jewellers and jeweller to kings” by England’s Edward VII who had 27 tiaras created by Cartier for his coronation, the maison currently has a reputed enterprise value (the combined market value of the equity and debt of a business less cash and cash equivalents) of close to 11 billion USD, making it the most important company within luxury goods group, Richemont.

Given the difficulty non-Francophones have with his name, de Quercize has, over the years, become known amicably by the acronym SdQ. A long serving member of the group, his first directorship was at Dunhill after which he became President of Cartier France and then of Cartier USA, before a final stint in charge of sister company, Van Cleef & Arpels.

One of SdQ’s pet peeves is people calling Cartier a brand. “Cartier is a maison,” he tells me, soon after we sit down. “The difference between a maison and a brand is that a maison has to have been established a long time ago, whereas a brand could have been created last month. A maison is always global, universal in fact, whereas a brand could be very local. A maison has to have a physical location, which we have all over the world, whereas a brand could be on the internet. And lastly, a maison is interested in its roots. Building on what Winston Churchill said, ‘the branches of a tree cannot go further than its roots’ and we have long roots.”

Yet despite the fact that Cartier has enviably long roots and has managed to branch out to the point that it now rules the jewellery world, some 90 per cent of global consumers still buy non-branded jewellery. “This is not an intelligent choice,” continues SdQ. “Here at Art Dubai, you’ll see that all the works of art are signed. That is what gives value. What’s more, if you wish to sell a non-branded piece of jewellery at auction, the auction house will refuse. Therefore, your only option is to melt it and sell it for the sum of its parts.”

“On the other hand, when you buy a Cartier you are buying the work of a designer, a stone finder, a stone setter, a jeweller, a polisher and so on. It is a collective work with a collective signature under the name of Cartier and that is what gives it its value.”

Speaking of value, what’s Cartier’s interest in sponsoring art? When I asked SdQ what linked the two, he had a rather witty reply. “Well, the three letters of art are in Cartier,” he said, with a twinkle in his eye. “Cartier belongs to art and art is Cartier. We believe jewellery and watch-making are art forms that are both universal and timeless. We have a great love and admiration for artists and we believe that in our own way, we too are artists.”

To underline this point, there will be an exhibition at France’s biggest museum, the Grand Palais, in Paris this December.  Entitled ‘Cartier, Le Style, l’Histoire’, it will take the form of a retrospective of the maison’s work. More remarkably, this will mark the 37th exhibition Cartier has had in the last 30 years.

“Cartier has been in the Metropolitan in New York, the British Museum in London, the Forbidden City in Beijing, the Kremlin in Moscow,” the CEO continues. “When the top museums across the globe say that this is history, this is art, that constitutes a universality of opinion.”

It’s not the maison’s only connection. Cartier has long been a pioneer in promoting the arts. Since 1984, the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain, more often known as the Fondation Cartier, has been a centre for contemporary art that presents exhibits by established artists, offers young artists a chance to debut and incorporates works into its collection. In 1994, the Fondation moved to a stunning new Left Bank location on Boulevard Raspail, designed by Pritzker Prize winner, Jean Nouvel.
“It all started 29 years ago under a former CEO of Cartier, Mr. Alain Dominique Perrin, who had the idea following a conversation with the legendary French sculptor César. The establishment of the Fondation was a way to give back to the community, a way to share contemporary art and help artists the world over.”

Since the Fondation started, it has held about four exhibitions a year, almost 120 in total. Cartier’s association with Art Dubai, however, is far newer, going back just three years. “We believe it’s also our mission to give back to the community of the UAE,” says SdQ, “and that’s why we are the main sponsor of the Dubai art fair. We take the opportunity to show our own creativity, which works well because here you have the exclusivity to meet with clients in a private salon, you have the atmosphere to appreciate such creations, the understanding of how it is made and you have the context to explain what goes into each piece.”
So what does SdQ hope to achieve during his tenure? “Simply, the continuation of Louis Cartier’s desire to surprise and delight customers with creations that will continue to mark history, be exhibited in museums, featured in books and be sought after in auction.”

That’s quite a tall order. We’d wish Monsieur de Quercize the best of luck but somehow, we suspect that luck will have little to do with his maison’s continued success.

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